STUART CAMERON reports from Netherdale
It was billed as a top-of-the-table clash between the two teams who battled it out in the Scottish Cup Final earlier in the year, and there was plenty of entertainment on view for the large crowd.
Ayr won by 24 points to 19 and they won the try count 3-2, coming out of the blocks quickly, but if Lee Millar had not hit the post with a conversion and a penalty, you would probably be looking at a draw, which would have been fair.
Gala boss George Graham has said that there will be changes for the trip to Aberdeen Grammar on Saturday, a place the Maroons have never won.
He was left very disappointed.
Ayr took the lead on two minutes when prop Nick Cox bundled over for a score which concerned the home support –after all, this has been the best defensive side in Scottish rugby for the last couple of seasons.
Gala took the lead thanks to three Lee Millar penalties and a charge-down try by opportunist winger Craig Robertson – he’s scored in all four games this season – but they then leaked two tries in five minutes when lock Scott Sutherland penetrated the line followed by a score from Callum Forrester, who took off down the far side to give Ayr a half-time lead.
The reliable boot of Peter Jericevich goaled all conversions.
The second period was more subdued as things tightened up at the back. Gala scored the try of the match from Lee Millar on 65 minutes. Robertson came into the line and passed to fly half Millar, who had the belief to dummy his man and sprint home to dive in for a try which will have given him a lot of satisfaction.
His conversion glanced off the right post. It could have tied things up, but he had another opportunity five minutes later when he attempted a penalty 40m out in front of the posts.
He hit the same upright, and Ayr ran it back into the Gala half of the field.
From there, the men in pink shirts created a gilt-edged chance to get their bonus try.
Robbie Fergusson blasted in under the posts for what should have been a simple score, but James King, the ex-Melrose star and now an Edinburgh pro, somehow prevented his opponent from grounding the ball and this superb tackle was crucial.
A try at this point would have given Ayr the extra bonus point and probably have stopped the Maroons from cashing in their losing bonus.
Jericevich’s penalty a minute from time sealed the game for Ayr and kept them at the top of the table.
Gala’s Robertson told TheSouthern afterwards: “The amount of times we got into their half only to make silly errors and give up the ball was frustrating.
“We were chasing our shadows and you can’t do that against a team like Ayr. They shut us out.”
You can see match highlights on Borders Rugby TV at www.BordersRugby.net
Gala: A. McLean, G. Somerville, B. Turner, A. Emond, C. Robertson, L. Millar, George Graham; L. Pettie, R. Anderson, E. McQuillin, C. Weir, D. Marshall, Gary Graham, G. Bryce, E. Dods. Subs: M. Christie, C. Mackintosh, S. Cairns, J. King, G. Young.